How to Pick the Right Window Coverings

After building three homes, I feel like there should be a university course about window coverings! There are so many options in the market – shades, blinds, electric, curtains… and don’t even get me started on the type of drapery pleats! For now, since we’re still a ways from moving in, we’re focusing on just our blinds and shades options – curtain and drapes will be a blog post for another day.

Timing

Before we delve into how to pick the right window coverings, we need to talk about when to pick the right window coverings.

In both of our previous homes, we were so eager to have a move-in ready space that we immediately had our window coverings installed in the entire home. In our first, we installed the same coverings throughout the whole house. In our second, we had two types of shades – one throughout the whole main floor and another for the upper level.

Here’s what we learned from our previous homes – in both cases, we should have waited before investing in the window coverings. The reality is you won’t know what you need for your windows until you live in your space – you need time to know how you use your home, when and where the sun hits, the level of privacy that you actually need, etc. So, this time around, we’re only having shades installed in the bedrooms (babies gotta sleep!) and the rest we will do piece-by-piece as we work on each space.

Blinds, Shutters and Shades

An expert will tell you that there are lots of differences between blinds, shutters and shades. For the average person wanting to decide on window coverings for their own home, the main difference is the material used for each and how they are installed.

Blinds are usually made of wood, metal or composite. They provide a cleaner but harder look.

Shutters are the same as blinds in terms of “hardness” but they are installed differently. Blinds are installed at the top of or above the window recess and usually open from bottom to top. Shutters are attached to the window frame, making them sturdier but meaning that they can only be open to either side of the window.

Like blinds, shades are installed at the top of or above the window recess but they are fabric-based, so they project a softer feel to the window.

Things to Consider

Light and Privacy

The main reason we get window coverings (aside for the aesthetic feel) is to control the amount of light in a space and what people can see from the outside.

For a bedroom, it seems obvious that we will want blackout or, at the very least, room darkening. For a kitchen or dining room, a light filtering covering is usually best.

Blinds can be tilted up or down to let the sun in without needing to be opened from the bottom up. Shades, on the other hand, need to be rolled up for a true room brightening feel, regardless of the level of sheerness of the shade.

Budget

The size of the window plays a big roll on the price of the window covering; the bigger the window, the more expensive the covering. Also, if your windows are a special shape, you’ll need to factor in custom sizing/design which is, inevitably, more expensive.

If you’re planning on covering all of the windows at once, you may need to compromise a bit on quality to make the project affordable. (Hence, another reason why waiting to install the window coverings is a good way to go).

Cleaning

This factor is often overlooked but, having had different coverings in the past, it is something that needs to be considered!

Blinds and shutters hold a lot more dust and need to be cleaned often; but, they are easily cleaned with a dust brush or dry cloth. Depending on the texture of the fabric, dust is often hidden on shades but cleaning them is harder. A hand held vacuum does the job for regular cleaning but you may need to hire a professional for a thorough cleaning or for any accidents or spills (I’m imagining kids’ dirty hands on the shades)…

Preference / Feel

The last thing to consider is actually the driving force for our choice – the feel we want for our space. As of now, we know we want blackout fabric shades for our bedrooms – I like the softer look of them and the fact that light will not filter through (except for on the sides, of course). Since I don’t know how our living room, kitchen, dining room, etc. will feel until we’re in the house, I’m holding off on making any decision for those spaces.

Our Windows – Then & Now

House 1 – California Shutters Through-and-Through

California Shutters were really “in” when we built our first home in 2011. I thought they offered a timeless and rich look with a clean feel; so we installed them everywhere! We lived there for 5 years and I never got tired of them; they were even a selling point when we listed our home for sale. My only complaint was that they could only be opened (fully) towards the sides which meant I was limited in what furniture or decor I could place near the windows.

House 2 – Zebra and Honeycomb Throughout

I went for a softer feel in our second home in 2016. We did white zebra shades on the main floor and honeycomb shades (aka cellular shades) on the second floor. I loved the feel of the different materials but the shades didn’t all work for our space.

Our great room, for example, was south facing which meant that the sun hit hard there during the day and the shades did nothing to keep out the light and the heat. This sometimes made watching tv on a Saturday afternoon difficult and uncomfortable…

The honeycomb shades upstairs opened up and down and were cordless. The problem with those was that, over time and after frequent use, the shades wouldn’t stay up. So, for example, I would open the shades to mid-window but after a few minutes they would drop. This was likely a defect in our specific coverings but still something to consider when thinking of cordless options.

House 3 – To be determined…

Third time is a charm, right? Well, only time will tell since we’re reserving our selections until after move-in.

What we know for now is that we will be doing blackout fabric roller shades with a cord in each of our bedrooms. The cord will be mounted on the side of the window (for safety reasons with the kids) and we opted for a light grey in the boys’ bedrooms and a pearl white in the master bedroom.

We chose a more simple, white, basic option for the basement guest room – it still offers a custom feel but is more budget friendly.

My last suggestion when it comes to selecting window coverings is to not do it alone! Most companies offer free in-home consultation to discuss your specific needs. They are the experts in the industry and can advise you on things to consider when making your selections and, since it’s free, you have nothing to lose!